Monday, April 4, 2011
I'd already heard a lot of great music in 2011, but Joe Lovano's concert Saturday at the Folly Theater topped it all. Startlingly innovative, Lovano and his Us Five band demonstrated that jazz still contains entire universes of untapped potential. (It's astonishing how much I concur with this review of the concert.)
Only about 400 people attended. Empty seats outnumbered patrons. And a significant portion of them, displeased by Lovano's aggressive approach, walked out. The Folly Theater's failure to utilize free promotional tools continues to disappoint me, but the problem is far more complex than that.
I was rattled by the reaction I received when I shared my excitement about Lovano's concert with friends during the previous day's First Friday celebration. One owns a record label. Another specializes in music marketing. A third books bands. A fourth works in radio. Not one of them had even heard of Lovano. He may lack the charisma of his frequent collaborator Esperanza Spalding, but within the jazz world, Lovano is a giant. When one of jazz's most important and compelling artists doesn't even register as a blip on the radar of music professionals, jazz is in a world of hurt.
Why the disconnect?
It's not the economy or competition from other forms of entertainment. Three rock-oriented concerts- Bright Eyes at the Uptown Theater, Three Days Grace at the Midland Theater and Henry Rollins at the Record Bar- drew capacity audiences the same night as Lovano's appearance. I have to believe that a least a few hundred fans at those events would also be attracted to the adventurous new sounds produced by Lovano. Rollins, for instance, issued a Matthew Shipp album on his 2.13.61 record label.
I realize, of course, that I'm preaching to the choir. I spotted several of Plastic Sax's 37 readers at Lovano's concert. Even so, it's come to this- jazz is so far removed from music's mainstream that active consumers of rock and hip hop have virtually no awareness of vital artists like Joe Lovano.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)